How to Prayer – Part 1

Forming Stewards – Prayer Part 1

“The only way to pray is to pray; and the way to pray well is to pray much. If one has no time for this, then one must at least pray regularly. But the less one prays, the worse it goes. And if circumstances do not permit even regularity, then one must put up with the fact that when one does try to pray, one can‟t pray – and our prayer will probably consist of telling this to God.” Dom Chapman

This marvellous quote sums up the challenge that is before us as Catholic Stewards. In the words of St. Paul: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) In this is the heart of our call to pray as Disciples of Christ. We are not meant to be people of bitterness or anger, resentment or spite. Our calling is to rejoice and give thanks. So if that is the nature of Christian life, then that is how we are also to model our prayer. All Stewards, who give thanks for, nurture and share the many gifts given to them by God, are called upon to be at one with the Giver in prayer. As the first quote suggests, even when one fails to pray well (by their standards) they are at least to persist in prayer, and pray without ceasing. Perseverance is as key to success in prayer as is trust. We must trust that God knows us better than we know ourselves, and that sometimes words are unnecessary. We are not praying as if our petitions are going to convince God of our needs. “Prayer does not change God, but it changes him who prays.” (Søren Kierkegaard)

Stewardship teaches us to give back to God, the community and the world from our Time, Talents, and Treasure (financial resources). Our Stewardship of Prayer is as much about giving of our time as it is about our talent, or ability for prayer! We must make space, physically, emotionally and spiritually. We need to „book‟ time with God, as if making an appointment in the day‟s calendar, if that helps. We also need to allow ourselves the opportunity to be silent, and listen. Mother Teresa once said, “God speaks in the silence of the heart. Listening is the beginning of prayer.” Hence the first step to effective prayer is to make the time and space for prayer and place yourself in the presence of God in silence. Deep breathing helps at this moment, or perhaps the repetition of a simple phrase (Come Lord Jesus) as a gentle mantra to begin.

The most important thing to remember in prayer is that God is NOT Santa Claus. Do not think that by bombarding God with endless lists of your needs, desires and requests, that this is prayer as a Catholic Steward knows it. Certainly there is always room for private intentions, as a means of asking God for assistance, but this should never be the starting point. Remember St. Paul?

Give thanks in all circumstances”.

Therefore I suggest, as a starting point for developing our prayer-life, this simple 4 step guide based on the virtues of a Catholic Steward.

Receptive – Take a moment to gently and silently settle yourself, and open yourself to the presence of God with you, around you and in you.

Grateful – Give thanks to God for all the blessings in your life at the moment, acknowledging that everything is a gift from God, even when dealing with difficulties.

Generous – Offer prayerful intentions for the needs of others. Pray specifically for those you know who struggle with particular circumstances in their lives.

Trusting – Now approach God with your personal petitions. Place before God all your worries, anxieties, concerns and needs. Do not ask God to „fix it‟, but rather pray that God will help you to deal with these issues. Seek to be gifted with strength, guidance, perseverance and trust.

God will not help you win the lottery; but will more likely assist you in living a fuller life. God may not give you what you think you want; but what God knows you need. God may not answer in signs and wonders, but may silently work deep within you a change of heart. Remember also that to „pray without ceasing‟ does not mean that we need to run away to a cloister and be on our knees 24/7. Rather it means that our days should be imbued with a prayerful attitude, with moments where our minds are raised to God, or our actions speak words of praise and thanks to God. This of course is easy to say and much harder to do, particularly when our days are filled with frustrations and constant demands on our time and energy. However, to make the effort is all that God asks. “Certain thoughts are prayers. There are moments when, whatever be the attitude of the body, the soul is on its knees.” (Victor Hugo, Les Misérables, 1862)

My friends, God extends to us an invitation to enter into a deeper relationship with God‟s self. The foundation of any meaningful relationship is love and communication. That is essentially what prayer is. With arms lovingly open wide, God wishes us to stay a while in that embrace. Do we dare allow ourselves to be still in the arms of God?

Fr Jason Middleton